04 December, 2020

Poster Boy

With the Air India Dreamliner taking flight, the Maharajah is dusting off cobwebs from his turban.

Poster Boy

Eighty years ago, on October 15, 1932, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata—the first person in India to be issued a pilot’s licence—transported some (air)mail in a single-engine de Havilland Puss Moth from Karachi to Bombay. This was the inaugural flight of Tata Aviation Services—the precursor of the Air India behemoth. The first route was Karachi to Madras, via Ahmedabad and Bombay.

In the very first year of operations, the airline made a profit of 60,000 rupees, which is more than can be said of the beleaguered carrier now. The airline was nationalised in 1953 but JRD continued to run it to the highest standards for many years. Those were the airline’s heydays, when it commanded the skies, slowly but steadily spreading its web across the globe. 

The now familiar figure of the Maharajah made his first appearance in 1946. He was the love child of Bobby Kooka, Air India’s commercial director, and Umesh Rao, an artist with the agency J. Walter Thompson. Most of these gorgeous posters are from the 1950s and 1960s, drawn by a...



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